Most business owners have heard the old adage, “Content is king” when looking for new ways to engage customers. Discover Boating president Carl Blackwell said that lesson has found its way into the marketing world in a big way.
To capitalize on that novel marketing tactic, the consumer-facing body will focus closely on a slew of new content in 2014.
“Our primary emphasis in the next year will be content marketing,” said Blackwell. “It’s a trend that is pretty prevalent, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that you can tell a much richer story with content marketing than you can with some of the traditional advertising. You’re starting to see blurring of public relations and advertising becoming a lot more common.”
He said the biggest reason for Discover Boating’s content push is the fact that other forms of advertising just can’t get people as excited about boating.
“Banner ads aren’t as effective as they used to be on digital, people really want to tell more of a story,” said Blackwell. “For us, positioned as the industry spokesperson and more of a neutral third party, this plays right into our strengths. And we can tell more of the story — allowing us to not be confined by the size of a banner ad or if it’s a video, not being confined by a 15-second ad space.”
Shifting the role from marketer to content creator was the logical step in a limited market.
“We’re able to actually create content that goes beyond those limits that traditional advertising has created,” said Blackwell.
Breaking out of the standard buttons and banners is, however, difficult and expensive. To that end, Discover Boating is looking for fresh (and free) content from passionate boaters themselves.
“One of our ideas is to actually grab boaters and allow them to tell our story for us. User-generated content tends to go over a lot better than manufactured content,” said Blackwell.
He said the new Welcome to the Water Movie Maker was created as a centralized place for boaters to create their own videos and share with friends.
“It’s trying to capture consumer-generated content, which is much more interested to people. That movie maker really allowed people to tell that story of a particular day on the water – so we just want to capture that over and over again,” said Blackwell, noting that all their analysis shows consumers can’t get enough of real-life experiences. “Because our social media is so measurable, we can track the engagement rates of everything we do, and we know that those generate the most engagements.”
He said that user-generated content and Discover Boating’s own video is the perfect platform to get people excited about boating.
“Video is very strong for boating; it just brings boating to life better than anything you can imagine. It works harder for boating than I think it works for a lot of other things,” said Blackwell.
With all those video assets paired with their huge investment in social media, that user-generated content is poised to spread virally through their fans and beyond, to all the prospective boaters out there.
He said while Discover Boating will work hard to develop and tweak short videos, some of the best marketing is done in long form. The heartstring-yanking “Good Run” video, for instance, just couldn’t work in a short video.
“That’s a four-minute video, I can’t get that shorter than two minutes. In fact, I threw the two-minute version away because it took away how heartfelt that was,” said Blackwell.
Using the slew of available metrics to gauge interest in past years, Blackwell and Discover Boating could see that video is an extremely powerful medium for the industry.
“Our click-to-completion rate was about 18 to 20 percent better than the average, said Blackwell. “That’s why it’s telling me that we need to use video in any way we can.”
Sponsored content and fresh content on the Discover Boating website are also on deck for the organization in 2014.
“We’re going to tackle some more rational content areas like safety education. We have a very comprehensive safety section on our site. Today, it lies in a lot of different areas,” said Blackwell. “So we’re going to look at our content and try to get it all into one area and be very comprehensive.”
Articles outlining the duties of a first mate are in the works to get children, spouses and other tangential boaters more involved on the water and more at ease with boats. Favorites like the spousal conversion kit will also be updated in 2014.
All that content aims to further the main goal of Discover Boating: selling more boats. Blackwell has big goals for 2014.
“Last year, we were very successful at moving consumers from Discover Boating to the manufacturer sites,” said Blackwell. “We hit nearly a million (referrals) last year — our goal is to hit about 1.2 million next year.”
Their data shows that the more time prospective consumers spend on Discover Boating, the more excited they get.
“By the time you’ve gone through our site and clicked all these links and clicked to the manufacturer site, they’re pretty engaged,” said Blackwell. “We still gather those leads, but more consumers have chosen to go the direct route through website referrals. So we’re going to continue to hit that really strong and really hard, because that’s the backbone of what we do.”
The market research and analytics company Info-Link showed that Blackwell and his team are delivering hotter leads than ever.
“One of the things that Info-Link has helped us determine is that 12.8 percent of the people that have registered on our site over the years have purchased a boat. So, that’s a pretty good batting average,” said Blackwell.
A bolstered partnership with the company will expand their data-gathering capabilities with extremely granular consumer data.
“Now, they’re going to help us track those folks that go to our site then onto a manufacturer site, and we’ll be able to track whether they ended up buying a boat based on their IP address,” said Blackwell. “That allows us to measure the other 90 percent of what we do. I’ve only been able to measure those folks that registered so far. And this other technology will allow us to measure our results for the majority of people that are coming to our site. So we hope to get a much clearer and bigger picture.”
For dealers, Blackwell said keeping their website up to date is incredibly important, as is “understanding the fact their website is an extension of their showroom.”
Following up on leads from Discover Boating is also more important than ever as those engaged online customers tune out more forms of advertising and expect more interaction.
“We’ve improved the system over this past couple years, now these leads are a little more hot than they have been in the past. So by following up on the leads, that’s one way they can help themselves. If they don’t follow up on the leads, then unfortunately we have a disappointed customer,” said Blackwell.
Discover Boating will continue to create new tools, videos and other content that dealers can using on their site to that end.
“So they can download it all off Grow Boating, and it’s a nice win,” said Blackwell. “It promotes our initiative, but it also gives them rational, tangible tools that they can use to enhance their sites.”